Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1652:
Crude Oil, Speculators and
Counting with Thumb First

Today, President Obama, in an effort to help reduce the price of crude oil, announced his plan to reduce the influence of speculators and manipulators on the oil market. During this Rose Garden speech, the President as part of enumerating his list of actions, began counting. At the 1:08 - 1:16 time marks, note that he uses his thumb first when initiating the count. This particular body language configuration has the dual advantage of being illustrative - helping to drive home a point with confidence and assertiveness - but also to give a speaker the opportunity to display a nearly worldwide (exceptions for Greece, Australia, Japan) emblem of optimism - the "Thumbs Up" signal.

What many people do instead, particularly North Americans (Pease), is start counting with their index finger (forefinger) first - thus displaying an "Index Finger Point" (IFP) nonverbal. Also known as the "Forefinger Point" (FFP) - it's an unwanted nonverbal byproduct of counting on one's had in this manner. Cross-culturally, very negatively received, offensive and insulting, the IFP/FFP will destroy rapport. It will incite defensiveness and often anger - and some scenarios it will even precipitate rage or violence.

See also:

Secret # 1995: Barack Obama, Social Darwinism and the Political Point

Secret # 1224: Two-Handed Index Finger Point

Secret # 1233: Putin's Pointing Pen

In the image below, captured at the same event, Barack Obama commits the faux pas of the IFP/FFP - although here not in the act of counting.